One year later…

On January 17, 2014, just over one year ago, I had my last day at my previous job. Since then, I’ve:

– Stepped foot on all 7 continents
– Visited the French city I studied abroad in during college and the apartment I lived in there (7 years ago)
– Obtained my open water PADI scuba diving certification in Thailand and my advanced certification in the Great Barrier Reef
– Discovered that my body can do way more than I ever thought (4 days of mostly uphill hiking at high elevation in Peru? No problem. 5 days traversing mountains, rivers, and valleys in the Patagonian wilderness? Sure!)
– Found my writing voice again on www.our21stcenturyodyssey.tumblr.com, after having buried it beneath work-talk and progress reports for nearly 5 years
– Slept in the Sahara desert, hosted by a Bedouin family
– Been pecked on the leg by a penguin in Antarctica, and jumped on by kangaroos in Australia
– Drove stick for the first time ever- and on the opposite side of the road
– Got hit by a truck while biking in Argentina, and I’ve got the scar on my knee to prove it
– Ate bugs in Cambodia- and liked them!
– White water rafted and kayaked for the first time in my life- I want to do so much more of both
– Walked on the streets on ancient Pompeii, lined with grooves from chariots
– Shoveled elephant poop at an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand
– Remembered D-Day during the 70th anniversary events in Normandy
– Visited Stonehenge
– Saw the Pope at the Vatican
– Reconnected with dear friends all over the world, and met many new friends along the way. You guys gave life and spirit to this adventure. You know who you are.

People have asked me since being home if I’ve changed at all. My initial answer is, “Not really”, which seems to disappoint everyone. In the core of who I am, I’m still me, with the same general perspective, attitude, interests and desires. If anything, I’d say this year helped me develop into a truer version of myself. The same “me” I was before, but now I’ve learned a bit more about who that person actually is.

I love being in the outdoors more than anything. I’m a good writer, I’m smart, and I’m clever and even witty at times. I like reading more than partying, but I like partying, too. With a little practice, my body is capable of anything- so I’m running a half marathon this fall. I’ve found certainty within myself. I can handle crazy situations.

I’m not as afraid of life as I thought I was.

With all of this said, there’s still so much to discover- in myself, and around the world, and at home.

In honor of reaching the one year mark since leaving my job, which for me marks the end of this year of adventure, I’m sharing here the last email I sent to my colleagues and friends. Enjoy!

——————————————————

After 4.5 years here, I can without question say I’m not the same person I was when I started here in July of 2009 (as a fresh-from-college psych grad who was frequently compared to Ke$ha and desperately wanted her own reality TV show). While I still appreciate bad pop music and a lot of glitter, I believe during my time working here I have developed management and professional skills that will serve me for the rest of my life. I can honestly say only good things about my experience at this company and about the staff I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

Many people have asked me why I decided to leave just 6 months shy of the long-awaited sabbatical. The short answer is that my boyfriend and I are taking a trip around the world starting next week and ending in December.

The longer story, for those who are interested, is quite simply that my plans didn’t pan out.

The first time I ever came to the Midwest was for my final interview with this company. I flew in from my hometown in Virginia during December, and upon landing back home, completely traumatized by the snow and cold of Madison, I actually cried with joy over seeing grass on the ground. I told my parents there was no way I’d ever move to Madison. I’ve now been living here for 4.5 years.

Within my first few months here I started on my first project. I was confused 95% of the time by my job. I told myself I’d give it a year. I even applied (and was accepted) to programs to teach English along the French Riviera the following year. When I hit 8 months, something clicked, and I actually began to really enjoy my job and to gain confidence in seeing myself successfully do things that intimidated me just a few months prior. I decided to stay a while more.

In time, I began to develop a friendship with the man who is now my boyfriend of 3 years. To add a little scandal to the tale, I should add he was my manager on my first project (oops). While I knew he had a bit of a crush on me, I told myself, and my friends, that there was no way I was going to date my manager. Clearly that didn’t go as planned.

The one plan that did work out, however, was my dream of traveling for an extended period of time. Somehow I talked Tim into it (it didn’t really take much coaxing), and we established a 2 year timeline to save money, implement a plan to sell our belongings and flesh out what it would take for each of us to take a year off to travel.

All of this brings me to where I am now – my last day at a job I’ve loved, writing this email from an account that won’t exist in just a few hours, preparing to embark on the trip of a lifetime that I am so grateful to be able to pursue with my best friend and soul mate.

Please keep in touch, and if you do nothing else, whatever your dreams are, start taking them very seriously.

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